HAVANA – Several dissidents who met U.S. President Barack Obama in Havana described the meeting as “positive” and “frank” and one of them handed Obama a list with the 89 political prisoners compiled by the group he leads.
Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, or CCDHRN, told EFE that Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting on Tuesday “his commitment to human rights and democratic freedoms.”
According to Sanchez, during the meeting with the U.S. president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, the only one that carries out a documented follow-up on these cases in Cuba.
Miriam Leiva, an independent Cuban journalist, who was also invited to the event, considered the meeting as “very open” because Obama listened to the 13 participants who “expressed their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and the U.S. leader also made comments.
In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama made time for a meeting with the dissidents during his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana at the U.S. embassy, showed his “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.
Antonio Gonzalez-Rodiles, leader of the independent project “State of Sats,” said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view.”
Gonzales-Rodiles criticized the new U.S. approach to Cuba and told Obama that he has his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and about the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.
In brief remarks about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization of relations with Cuba is to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries some 15 months ago.